There is an age-old adage, which states that in this world ‘you get what you pay for’ and nowhere is this truer than in the Protection Industry.
As someone who runs their own security company, I know this only too well. However, this lesson was firmly reinforced after I rashly agreed to take on a job that my gut had warned me to avoid.
Sometime last year I received a phone call from a colleague who wanted me to do some Close Protection work with him. The timing and price weren’t quite right, but I’d missed a few jobs, and I was eventually persuaded into travelling for several high-profile, low-risk jobs in the North West of England which would pay a certain fee, plus expenses. The jobs weren’t too taxing, just looking after a few celebrities at some book signings.
The tasks were done with a minimal fuss, there was the need for a closed box formation for one client who was being harassed and a quick-fire exit for another who didn’t want too much attention, otherwise straightforward. However, I’d noticed a few issues that did not sit comfortably with me. First off, I’d accepted the job from another CPO who had been asked to put a team together. His experience was limited, but he was painting a picture of himself as having worked on many tasks and being highly regarded by his employers, yet I had noticed a few glaring issues with the way he operated.
For instance, on one particular occasion, when acting as Personal Protection Officer (PPO) for the client on a shopping trip, he quickly became distracted and got caught up in window shopping himself. As an operator, if you can’t keep your concentration while on a simple shopping task what are you going to be like when things really go down?
On another occasion, I witnessed more unprofessional behaviour from another team member who was dealing, rather poorly, with some domestic issues he was having at home. He was bellowing down the phone at his partner and his ex-wife, being extremely vocal and getting highly agitated, while explaining very audibly, to all in earshot, the details of what was going on in his personal life. In this line of work, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have to deal with some sensitive domestic issues, and often when you’re on task. Therefore, it’s imperative that you find a healthy and professional way to deal with them.
It later transpired that this guy was also a door supervisor who apparently has equally poor trouble in controlling his temper while on the job. Thankfully, this individual was removed for the next assignment, which was just as well as I had concerns about working with him and I let the Team Leader know so much.
Day two of the task threw up more surprises when I had to hastily conduct a lesson on basic formations when moving on foot with the principal. How could 4 qualified protection officers not know how to form a simple box formation around a principal? Well, it turns out that only two of us were qualified CPO’s, the other two were Door Supervisors (DS) promoted to the role of CPO. This, undoubtedly, was a cost-cutting exercise as that same composition was the norm for the duration of the task.
I don’t know if this company still exists but what I do know is that the promise of payment was as unqualified as some of their Protection officers! I only ever received half of the agreed rate and a full three months after the agreed payment date! I’m not normally one to let a debt go, but by this stage,
I was just happy to draw a line under it and chalk it down as experience and move on to bigger and better things.
I don’t operate a Close Protection Officer solely, I am also a Head Door Supervisor, a qualified SIA (Security Industry Authority) trainer, a judo instructor, and I teach conflict management outside of the industry. But in every one of those roles, I take my job seriously; I take a professional approach in all I do. And without wanting to be a perfectionist, I feel confident in saying that I don’t need somebody to tell me how to form a closed box or how to check the exits because I already paid somebody to teach me that in training.
A short while later I was negotiating a similar contract, that is until the client let me know that as part of the security I was tendering for there was a requirement for two unofficial CPOs. Troubled by this, I fired off a message to the SIA, asking the clarity. The reply was unequivocal: “Door Supervisors may not be deployed in a Close Protection role. If you are aware of a company deploying Door Supervisors in a Close Protection role you should report them as this is a breach of licencing conditions.’
Did I pick up the phone and make that call to the authorities? No, it’s just not in my nature to do so, but it’s only a matter of time before they’ll come unstuck.
So, what are the lessons we can extract from this experience? First off, the price of Close Protection is going down, and it is not helped by unqualified individuals who are prepared to do the job at a reduced rate. If you get yourself involved with a company that cuts corners and has a blatant disregard for the regulations governing this industry, and whether you like it or not, you will end up being tarred with the same brush resulting in reputational damage. However, there is also a word of warning for those companies who take us for a ride, too; you and your company will eventually come unstuck – and of course, one day, somebody will pick up the phone and make that call!
Industry Standards Are They Out the Door?
By: David Hammond
David Hammond is based in the North of England. He runs his own Security Company and is author of Applying the right amount of force: Judo’s contribution to law enforcement. His web address is www.dthprotection.com